EXCLUSIVE: George Pell, Father Anthony Bongiorno and the killing of Maria James

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George Pell's appeal is soon to be heard in the High Court (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

40 years ago, Melbourne bookshop owner and mother of two boys Maria James was viciously stabbed 68 times with her own kitchen knife. As a new inquest begins into these killings, contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence calls for Cardinal George Pell, former Premier Jeff Kennett and Victoria Police to be re-investigated.



Should incarcerated convicted paedophile Cardinal George Pell be interviewed by Victoria Police about his relationship with fellow paedophile and close friend Father Anthony Salvatore Bongiorno, chief suspect in the bloody murder of Maria James on 17 June 1980? 

This nascent year marks the 40th anniversary of this heinous and still unsolved crime.

The Coroners Court of Victoria is now in the midst of an investigation into the ruthless killing of Maria James.

Should Cardinal George Pell be interviewed by coronial investigators and be called as a witness to the inquest?

New facts about the Maria James murder have come to light and Cardinal George Pell may be able to provide more information about Father Anthony Bongiorno and the brother whose requiem mass he officiated, Salvatore "Sam" Bongiorno.

We found this article by Keith Moor in the Sunday Herald Sun, 30 August 2007, on the retrospective Wayback Machine, the internet archive. What’s it doing there?

Here’s a quote:

'FORMER premier Jeff Kennett received written information in 1998 that nominated Father Bongiorno as a child molester. He gave the letter, which contained a photo of Father Bongiorno, to police.'


What did Victoria Police do with that letter and photo? Should former Premier Jeff Kennett be interviewed by the Coroner? What did the letter say? Who wrote it? Was the letter DNA tested?

Has Kennett, the former chairman of Beyond Blue, kept a copy of the letter and photo he received implicating Father Tony Bongiorno in the Maria James murder? Where is that material now? From where was it posted? Or was it delivered to Parliament House? Is there any CCV footage? Will the police give this material to the coronial investigators? If not, will the Coroner compel the police to produce this evidence? So many questions. So few answers.


Who signed that letter to Kennett? Was it anonymous? Why can’t we see the letter and photo now that Father Bongiorno is dead; redact the sender’s name if needs be. Was the letter typed, handwritten? Had the sender sent a copy of the same letter and photo to Victoria Police? Did they bin this info? Just asking. 

Here we should refer to the volatile and sometimes acrimonious relationship between now Cardinal George Pell and Jeff Kennett, both uber-powerful figures in Melbourne’s establishment, both notoriously capable of exercising extreme autocratic power and influence and still needy for both. No mistake should be made about any diminution of power and influence since Pell’s conviction and incarceration. He still has powerful friends in both high and low places.

Kennett less so, but nonetheless he occupies a prison of another kind; not dissimilar to that of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, incarcerated in cells of their own making within those invisible walls that sometimes entrap the once-powerful now languishing in a faraway galaxy of lessening consequence; Misters Who?

Few analysts will forget then Archbishop Pell’s edict to the non-Catholic Jeff Kennett that he was forbidden to receive communion at the Pontifical requiem mass for the state funeral of B A Santamaria in March 1998, where Pell delivered an eloquent and moving panegyric about his friend, who to this day surely remains Australia’s most powerful Catholic layman. Waddya reckon Jesus – Jezza, to you and me – would’ve said?


Pell’s spiteful rebuff to Kennett should be viewed in the shroud of hypocrisy worn by Pell. But hey, it was payback time for Pell against his nemesis, Kennett.

According to his conviction – and the datelines of his crimes – Archbishop George Pell was already a sexual abuser when he denied Kennett’s request and yet the Host consecrated in Holy Communion would be served by the hands of a paedophile rapist — as the defiled Host has been served a billion times to believers and parishioners by paedophile priests.

Remember that in this sacrament, the wafer of the Host is miraculously transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. To be specific, paedophile priests who administer Holy Communion are surely raping Jesus.

It should be noted that a couple of years beforehand, in 1996, Kennett told Archbishop George Pell to sort out the sex abuse issue within Victoria or possibly face a Royal Commission.

What’s wrong with this behind-closed-doors dictum? Everything. Kennett should have called a Royal Commission regardless, given the gravity and extent of the sex abuse. These criminal activities by priests and brothers within the Catholic Church were widely known.


By designating to the Catholic Church what should have been the role, duties of care and prosecution by the state, Kennett undermined the role of the police and judiciary and failed to act in the public interest.

Moreover, he breached the protocols of the Separation of Powers. Kennett had no right to make this private pact with the Catholic Church or to make such a repugnant decision on our behalf.

Did Kennett discuss his decision with his colleagues; his cabinet?

In every sense, it was a pact made with the Devil; a pact that the Kennett-proxied State made with the perpetrators of industrial-strength sexual abuse of children. In its execution, it meant the State facilitated the subsequent cover-up. The Catholic Church, of course, typically did next to nothing.

Yes, a redress scheme panel of very important impressive names – and police – was set up. It made a great figleaf over the genitalia of paedophilic clergy.

As the Royal Commission revealed. Kennett had given Pell and The Church a free pass.

The Catholic Church did not clean up its act and Kennett did not call a Royal Commission.


Kennett’s Napoleonic actions reflect the persistent diminution and disregard for the safety and welfare of victims — in this case, little and vulnerable children. Instead of the Premier’s guardianship of children, his actions reflected the state’s tacit collusion in protecting the reputation of the all-powerful Catholic Church.

Kennett did the victims and wider community a great injustice and much ongoing harm. 

Thus, against the above backdrop, it was a blessed relief in more ways than one when Acting Coroner Iain West called a halt to the obfuscating nonsense surrounding the mysterious cold case of the Maria James murder.

Here is the full text:  


Friday 30 November 2018


Coroners Court of Victoria




Acting State Coroner Iain West has today re-opened the coronial investigation into the death of Maria James.


Ms James, 38, was found murdered in her bookshop at 736 High Street, Thornbury on 17 June 1980.


On 25 November 1982, Coroner K.G. Mason held an inquest into the death of Ms James and found that her homicide was committed by a person unknown.


In July 2017, the Coroners Court of Victoria received an application from Mark James, Ms James’s son, requesting that Coroner Mason’s finding be set aside and the coronial investigation into his mother’s death be re-opened.


Following the introduction of legislative amendments to the Coroners Act 2008 on 28 October 2018, His Honour is empowered to set aside findings made under previous Coroners Acts of 1958 and 1985 and re-open investigations if new facts or circumstances make it appropriate to do so.


Having considered the application, His Honour has determined to set aside the 1982 finding and re- open the investigation.


As the investigation is ongoing, no further comment can be made at this time.

Strangely, I could not find West’s statement on the Coroner’s website and notified the department of this. At the time of writing, I understand this is being rectified. It is not the first time that IA has discovered anomalies in court record keeping.

Independent Australia has learned that some senior police and personnel within the Department of Justice were bloody annoyed by West’s decision. Why? Because there are a number of egregious faultlines in the decades-long investigation(s) into the James murder, including what I assert is a deliberate failure to properly consider the relationship and overriding influence of the Catholic Church upon the establishment, the polity, the police, some media, judiciary, elite business and influencers, the top end of town — indeed the wider community. That influence remains sans frontieres. Even today.

Such is the climate of fear carefully cultivated by the Catholic Church and its agents and representatives, that many whistleblowers are still too scared and too scarred to be named.


Moreover, the threat of legal action has made writing/publishing about the church, problematic; especially when it comes to George Pell. Without doubt, a chat with Cardinal Pell about his fellow perpetrator, Father Tony Bongiorno, could clarify some aspects of the latter’s connection and relationship with Maria James.

Did Pell ever hear Bongiorno’s confession?  Has Pell ever heard confessions about the sexual abuse of children? Any priest or brother made such a confession to him?  He could certainly answer that much. No question. Pell should also answer questions about how he responded to those who confess such criminal acts. Answering such questions does not break the Seal of Confession.



The 38-year-old mother of two young boys had been bound and viciously stabbed 68 times in her Thornbury secondhand bookshop, with her own Wiltshire kitchen knife, on that fateful Tuesday, evoking similarities with the frenzied stabbings in yet another decades-old unsolved crime against women — the notorious Easey Street murders of Suzanne Armstrong and Susan Bartlett, three years earlier.

Neither I nor Independent Australia make any inference whatever that George Pell was involved in the murder of Maria James in any way but it should be noted that Pell was a friend to Father Bongiorno – long before the murder - and long after; including long after it was common knowledge amongst priests, the Vatican, the Catholic Church, in particular, the Archdiocese of Melbourne, within certain police circles and George Pell himself, that Bongiorno was a serial paedophile.

In fact, like so many other paedophile priests and brothers, aided and abetted in their crimes by the Catholic Church, whenever Bongiorno’s sexual abusing became obviously promiscuous, he was rewarded by his masters with being trafficked to new culling fields to enjoy "fresh new meat — young veal".  


In the Church’s despicable modus operandi, Bongiorno was simply whored around to various parishes, who welcomed him with open palms and the usual blaspheming psalms. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. These unholy priests, brothers in alms. Their insatiable sexual appetites kept well-fed.

In the lexicon of the Church, these lambs were led to their sexual slaughter by predominantly White adult males – who were in some cases, members of privileged, elite paedophile rings – who raped their child victims in the name of their God.

Often, these "new" parishes already had a paedophile priest in situ, so assimilation was easy. Victims were shared, notes compared.

At the time of the James murder, Bongiorno was an assistant parish priest at the nearby St Mary’s Catholic Church, on the corner of Rossmoyne and High St — the same street as the bookshop. Before it became known as "Bongiorno’s church" it once boasted a robust Italian migrant congregation and was known for its Italian mass.

On the Catholic Church websites, there is now a strange emptiness on the St Mary’s page(s).

Not even an acknowledgement or proud boast that the current Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Christopher Prowse, was once the parish priest in residence. No list of priests who have officiated at the parish. Nothing to see here. No list of victims of paedophile priests. No list of paedophile priests.


Certainly, nothing about Father Anthony Bongiorno who remains a key suspect in the James murder and who is now known to have sexually abused Maria James’ youngest son, Adam, then aged 11, who lives with cerebral palsy, Tourettes and his champion of a big brother, Mark, then 13-years-old and an altar boy.

Please watch this moving and compelling interview with Adam and Mark, posted on YouTube by the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID) and witness the personal empowerment that comes with not only the telling of your story but also the validation that comes with being heard and believed by the community.


In a cruel twist of fate, Bongiorno was actually the person whom police asked to notify Mark of his mother’s death. What is more, it was Bongiorno who officiated at Maria James’ funeral service. Galling. By any measure. But it is what we have sadly come to expect of insinuating Catholic paedophile priests and their facilitating church executives.


By all accounts, Maria James was fiercely protective of her children. She was a lioness of a mother when it came to her boys.

It is believed that on the very day she was murdered, Maria James was about to confront Father Bongiorno about sexually abusing Adam. Did he get in first? Did he kill her?

Or, was Bongiorno trying to protect someone else. His brother? 

Anthony and Sam were close siblings. Did Sam know Maria James? Was he a suitor? Did he murder Maria James? Did Victoria Police check out Sam Bongiorno?


Is Sam Bongiorno a legitimate suspect?

Did George Pell also know Tony Bongiorno’s brother Sam well? And their sister? The same sister who refused to give her DNA to eliminate Father Bongiorno as a murder suspect?  Why wasn’t she prepared to eliminate her brother Father Anthony Bongiorno as a suspect?

Could it be by giving her DNA she might also implicate her other brother, Sam Bongiorno? Was the sister interviewed by the police about Sam? Was Sam Bongiorno every interviewed by police?

If Father Bongiorno’s body can’t be exhumed – can Sam Bongiorno’s body be exhumed – are there other of his family members who can give permission to exhume Sam Bongiorno’s body?


An exhumation could move us closer to a DNA profile. Could Cardinal George Pell be asked to speak with the Bongiorno sister and gain permission from her to exhume Father Bongiorno’s body to take a DNA sample — as an act of compassion for Mark and Adam James?

At the time of writing, I have not been able to establish if the Bongiorno sister is still alive. If she isn’t, perhaps other family members could provide DNA samples present in any of her possessions — even a hairbrush?


It should be further noted that in the 1960s, "Tony" Bongiorno was in the same seminary group and intake at Corpus Christi College (then at Werribee) as his mate George Pell. By all accounts, they became firm friends and spent much time together, according to our trusted sources.

Also in that group was another student priest who, like Pell, would go on to become Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart.

Someone else in that illustrious intake was none other than Father Sean O’Connell who later became a parish priest at St Paul’s in Coburg, a mere Magdalene stone’s throw from St Mary’s Thornbury. So Father O’Connell was just up the road from his old mate, Father Bongiorno.

O’Connell was to conveniently provide his mate Father Tony Bongiorno with an all-day alibi at the time of the Maria James murder that contradicts other alleged sightings of a possible murderer (including of a bloodied priest) and various timelines.


In the 1850s, two famous and infamous Catholic rebels worshipped at St Paul’s.

One was the now canonised, Sister Mary MacKillop, who ironically was once arguably excommunicated for reporting a priest for child sexual abuse and the other was the notorious bushranger, Ned Kelly, hanged and decapitated in1880.

O’Connell’s former student priest classmate, Archbishop Denis Hart did the honours when he celebrated mass for the consecration of St Paul’s on 3 July 2011 after three years of restoration work. Why the restoration work?

In March 2008, a suspicious fire caused about $2 million worth of damage to St Paul’s. The year before, the parish community hall opposite the church was razed.

But Ned Kelly was not the only criminal associated with St Paul’s. Indeed, Father Sean O’Connell found himself charged with harbouring one of Mark "Chopper" Read’s mates.


Three years before the Maria James murder, on 9 May 1977, notorious career criminal and Chopper-acolyte Jimmy Loughnan escaped from the bluestone fortress of Pentridge Prison and found himself in the grounds of St Paul’s.

As documented in James Morton’s book Maximum Security, Father O’Connell was originally convicted of harbouring the injured Loughnan, but the conviction was quashed on appeal.

It should be noted that Anthony Bongiorno was one of the student priests who attended a holiday camp on Phillip Island during the time when George Pell, also a student priest, was accused of sexually abusing altar boys, in 1961/1962.


In fact, the allegations against George Pell were the subject of what is known as the Southwell Report, which Pell falsely claimed exonerated him.

As we have cited, it did nothing of the sort.

It was a falsehood that Pell, the Catholic Church and its behemoth propaganda artillery had promulgated for years, yet again causing great damage to the veracity and reputations of complainants, victims/survivors of church, institutional and "civilian" child and adult sexual abuse alike, contributing to the great physical and mental harm done still to generations of victims.

The fake news of Pell’s assertions were compounded at the time by a dodgy headline in mainstream media’s Sydney Morning Herald falsely proclaiming ‘Pell exonerated over abuse claims’, despite the article’s anonymous writer actually pointing out among other things that:-

Mr Southwell's Report concluded that he accepted:

'... as correct the submission of [barrister Michael] Tovey that the complainant, when giving evidence of molesting, gave the impression that he was speaking honestly from an actual recollection. However, the respondent, also, gave me the impression that he was speaking the truth.'

Why was the writer anonymous? Grown-up journalists usually have a byline on such stories. Did the writer object to the headline and ask that his/her byline be removed?

The misrepresentation of the Southwell Report also proved a forceful deterrent to some victims coming forward — and outright fisting to the courage of those who had already stepped forward naming their tormentors and abusers.

The 91-year-old Alec James "Ginger" Southwell QC died on January 26, 2018. He had impeccable legal credentials.

But the Anglican retired Supreme Court judge was hardly independent, given his appointment by the Catholic church’s now discontinued oxymoronically named "National Committee for Professional Standards", set up to ‘receive inter alia, complaints of sexual abuse by Catholic priests’. Such is the wholesale proliferation of child sex abuse.

I am not alone in being disappointed by Southwell’s failure to publicly call out his employers – and Cardinal George Pell – for blatantly misrepresenting his findings. If Southwell had called out Pell, it would have been an inspirational statement on behalf of justice, let alone the integrity of his own report.


So close were George Pell and his classmate Tony Bongiorno, that whilst Pell was auxiliary bishop of Melbourne (1987-1996) he officiated at the 1994 requiem mass for Father Bongiorno’s brother, Sam.

Given some of the connections cited, there is a strong case to be made that Pell could shed light on events leading up to and since this gruesome murder, that has atrophied into yet another cold case involving cataclysmic violence towards women and police investigation(s) that have sadly come to a literal dead-end.

In this segment from the ABC’s 7.30 Report on Wednesday, 23 April 2014, hosted by Sarah Ferguson and presented by Kerri Ritchie, discussing the Maria James murder with celebrated detective Ron Iddles, important archival footage of an interview with Father Anthony Bongiorno conducted a few weeks after the murder, contains a few clues.

These clues are not apparent simply with the benefit of hindsight but are embedded within the defensive language and sentence construct used by Bongiorno, especially in the opening sequence of the interview. 


In the archival footage, which at starts about 3.17 seconds in, the ABC interviewer says to Bongiorno: “You knew Mrs James rather well.”


Bongiorno unexpectedly responds with:

“Of course, I have to admit that. I have to admit that I spoke to her. Only a fool would deny that.”

The analysIs of words is fraught with ambiguity and competing factors, and open to misinterpretation, especially by this amateur, but in discussion with a forensic psychologist who also viewed the footage, it raised similar alarm bells:

I would need to view all the interview footage shot with Bongiorno that day, including that which didn’t make it to air. Often any off camera sound and raw footage can provide further clues. I would  also like to see all the footage of the police interview with the priest.


But on what was put to air, the priest’s defensive response that he would “have to admit that” and “admit” he spoke to “her” and that “ only a fool would deny that ” seems unusual, I agree, especially in the context of the interviewer’s statement, rather than question.

Does the ABC still have the raw footage of this interview — stuff that did not go to air? Could it be given to the Coroner? Surely Victoria Police would have already requested this footage. Especially in light of more recent revelations in the media of Bongiorno’s sexual abuse of one of James’ sons.


Given that Bongiorno was Maria James’ parish priest and that she worshipped at St Mary’s, it would be expected he knew her well. As a counsellor and comforter to his parishioners, it is odd that in his opening words, he says nothing compassionate about Maria James, doesn’t speak of how horrible the murder was, or mention was a wonderful mother she was. Of course, this is conjecture and indeed he may have said such things in the interview, but they weren’t put to air.

One thing is certain, Victoria Police and the ABC need to make available to the Coroner all footage, interviews and recordings with Bongiorno — and it would surely be pertinent to formally engage professional linguists, analysts, verbal and body language experts and forensic psychologists to also assess all Bongiorno’s interviews.

Because Bongiorno seems needlessly on the defensive and may be covering up something, does not necessarily mean that he murdered Maria James. It may be that he is covering up for the murderer — or someone who knows the murderer. 


During a police interview, Father Bongiorno said that Maria James was a prostitute, servicing clients at the bookshop; ostensibly this was why she had a lock on the inside of her bedroom door and was on the pill. Let’s zoom in here. So what if she was a prostitute? Not that there is nothing to suggest she was, but that is not any justification for her murder. Or for not solving this cold case.

This victim-blaming – this "she was asking for it" and "she brought it on herself" – is a well-known characteristic of both the Catholic Church in slut-shaming women and, at times, the police. The same things were said about the two women victims of the Easey Street murderer(s).

These dirty tactics were used to sully the reputation of Eileen Piper’s daughter Stephanie, who suicided in 1994 after being slut-shamed and had her character trashed by her rapist, Father Gerard Mulvale, and the Catholic Church — even after she was dead.


Bongiorno also slut-shamed Maria James and called her out in Church, for god’s sake, in front of everyone for allegedly selling pornography in her bookshop. The stench of hypocrisy by these men is so overpowering. I can attest that in hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by paedophile priests and brothers, children are shown pornography to arouse them. It works well with lollies and alcohol.

And just where does Bongiorno get off? Here he is calling out single mum Maria James, and yet he’s already a sexual predator and sexually abused her son.

Here I should mention another notorious serial paedophile and parish-trafficked priest of St Mary’s, who is also a murder suspect and who had also abused Maria James’ son, Adam on the same day as Bongiorno — Father Thomas O’Keeffe. There is no end to it.

In her book on the indefatigable homicide squad detective, Rod Iddles, entitled The Good Cop, first published in July 2016, the prolificTV producer, journalist and true crime writer Justine Ford devotes a chapter entitled ‘OPEN FOR BUSINESS’ on the Maria James case.


She points out that James was "neither raped nor robbed". There were indentations on James’ face caused by the force of a metal potato masher. The use of the kitchen utensil, that clearly did not have the lethal consequences of the knife that was used in her murder, gives rise to all manner of scenarios.

In what must surely be regarded as an irresponsible imposition and superimposing contamination upon a murder crime scene, the investigating police actually had the audacity – some say stupidity – to set up a unit inside the James bookshop, in her living room and kitchen, using her appliances and utensils. What were they thinking? The police could just have easily set up a mobile van or even a tent in the backyard, for goodness sake.

As with the Easey Street murders, blood was splattered all over the place. Whereas I attended the scene of the Easey Street murders, I did not attend the murder scene at the Thornbury bookshop, although for decades I/my company maintained a comprehensive open investigation file(s) on the latter, which contained years of extensive interviews, documents and evidence gathering.


Curiously, two men who were implicated in the Maria James murder case ended up suiciding. To this day, there is still speculation about these suicides and of a church and police cover-up.

One of the men was a Telecom worker who lived in South Yarra and told police he regularly visited Maria James at the bookshop. According to Ford’s book, Ron Iddles is quoted as saying that although the suicide note did not reference Maria James, it discussed his talking with the homicide squad.

Where is that suicide note? What is the full text? Will it be given to the Coroner?

The second man, who suicided by gassing himself in his car and who was later eliminated as a result of DNA tests, was paedophile and psychopath, Peter Keogh.

In 1975, Keogh, described by a judge as "man of violence who committed outrageous indecencies", sexually assaulted a nine-year-old girl. Twelve years later, kindergarten teacher Vicki Cleary was stabbed to death by Keogh, her ex-lover. It was yet another bloody murder of a woman. And most foul. As are they all.


Given that several years ago Victoria Police conceded there had been a bungle over the DNA material attributed to the Maria James murder scene (ditto the Easey St murders), community fears that there has been collusion between the church and police needs to be reinvestigated, hopefully by the Coroner, since we have had a surfeit of police investigating police in Victoria.

From the CathNews, 13 July 2017, this report:

The ABC's Trace podcast has been reinvestigating the murder for over a year, and recently became aware that an incorrect DNA sample had been used to rule out persons of interest in the case.


On presenting that information to authorities, the ABC was issued a statement by Victoria Police stating it had discovered "an error in the handling of an exhibit".

It should be remembered that, although Father Bongiorno in 1996 was acquitted of multiple charges of indecent assault involving three boys between 1981 and 1987, the victims were granted compensation by both State and Church tribunals/commissioners.

Whilst Bongiorno pleaded not guilty to all charges, serious and legitimate concerns have been raised about the conduct and strategy of the police prosecution. It is hoped that the Coroner will also investigate this aspect, which also reflects the Catholic Church’s knowing endorsement of paedophile priests.


Father Anthony Bongiorno was, incredibly, trafficked to other parishes after the Marie James murder, despatched first to Reservoir North and then Brunswick.

Father O’Connell died on 18 December 2016, outliving his murder suspect mate by 14 years.

Unlike the pontifical requiem mass said for O’Connell and the solemn burial ceremony afterwards, today Bongiorno’s corpse lays in an unmarked grave. Why would that be?

He died on 15 February 2002 and, true to Catholic paedophilic collegiality, much of the organising of the funeral service was organised by Father Graham Daniel Redfern who knows a lot about funerals. 


It was after he had conducted the last rites and the funeral service for a woman in 1976 that Father Graham Redfern sexually abused the woman’s grieving son, who had recently turned 18.

You can read here on the Broken Rites website, the squalid machinations of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy, which basically couldn’t have cared less about Father Redfern’s sexual abusing of the young man and contrary to what it had promised — and simply despatched him to new pastures.

How’s this for a damning but typically arrogant response from the Church.

From an extensive report on Broken Rites:

Despite what occurred in 1976, the Archbishop was satisfied that it would not be in the public interest and that it would be unnecessary and unfair to exclude Fr Redfern from the ministry."


Early in his statement, Monsignor Prowse summarised Father Redfern's offence thus: "In 1976 Fr Redfern engaged in improper sexual conduct with an adult (aged 18 years and some months)."


However, Monsignor Prowse did not mention Mr O'Callaghan's ruling about the abuse of priestly power. Monsignor Prowse did not mention that the "improper sexual conduct" occurred after Fr Redfern conducted the Last Rites and Requiem Mass for the youth's mother.

The Maria James unsolved murder – like those of Susan Bartlett and Suzanne Armstrong – is an indictment not only on perhaps deliberately botched police investigations, but are also symptomatic of the seemingly fifth tier ranking and frustrating diffidence attributed to violent crimes against women.

In the case of Maria James, the power and influence of the Catholic Church and its overreach into politics and Victoria Police warrants further and intensive scrutiny.

Hopefully, the coronial investigation and inquest will bring independent justice to bear, not only for  Mark and Adam James, family members and friends but also for the wider community that, with good reason, has lost faith in the Church, institutions, politicians and police.

For those of us who are victims, family members, supporters, advocates activists, journalists, alike, in the fight for justice for the victims/survivors of crime and sexual abuse, this new year has begun in the same way as the old year ended.

Our work here is not yet done.

Please contact Tess Lawrence via Independent Australia if you have any information on the murders of Maria James, Susan Bartlett and/or Suzanne Armstrong.


  • Tess Lawrence has worked for the Christian Brothers. 
  • Tess Lawrence multimedia files on the Maria James case were illegally seized by the National Australia Bank and McKean Park Lawyers, their agents and representatives and she has not seen them since.


  • For an extraordinary backgrounding of the Maria James murder case, please listen to all of the Walkley award-winning podcasts of Trace, led by the ABC’s Rachael Brown. It is a triumph, and without question the contribution and collaboration with Mark and Adam James, these fine podcasts contributed to the new coronial investigation and pending inquest.
  • The diligence and intensive research of Broken Rites is saluted. So often the records of churches, institutions and courts are redacted, not posted at all and simply removed.
  • Both Tess Lawrence and Independent Australia acknowledge that writing about these hard issues can be distressing to everyone concerned, including, at times, the writers.
  • It is disappointing to learn that, as with the Easey Street murders, Victoria Police continues to be as unhelpful in exchanging and sharing information about the Maria James murder. So often, the announcing of rewards and re-opening of cold cases is simply a device used to enable the facile "we are unable to comment whilst the investigation is in progress".
  • Time and again citizen sleuths, podcasts and investigative journalists have helped to shed light upon cases — even solved them. Rod Iddles thankfully does not share the myopic "tell 'em nothin" attitude of some police, who should be utilising modern technologies and working with us, the community — not working against us.


Broken Rites
Phone: Broken Rites Australia national hotline: (03) 9457 4999
Mail: Broken Rites (Australia) Collective Inc. PO Box 163, ROSANNA, Victoria 3084, Australia

Royal Commission
Phone: 1800 Respect or 1800 737 732

Phone: 13 11 14

Blue Knot Foundation 
Counselling and support for survivors
Phone: 1300 657 380

Bravehearts Inc
Counselling and support for survivors, child protection advocacy
Phone: 1800 272 831

Care Leavers Australasia Network
Support and advocacy for Forgotten Australians
Phone: 1800 008 774

Child Migrants Trust
Social work services for Former Child Migrants, including counselling and support for family reunions
Phone: 1800 040 509

Child Wise
The Trauma-informed telephone and online counselling for childhood abuse. Training and organisational capacity building on child abuse prevention
Phone: 1800 991 099

Children and Young People with Disability Australia
The national peak body for children and young people with disability. Provides information and systemic representation
Phone: 1800 222 660 / 03 9417 1025

The Healing Foundation
Service to help build the capacity of Indigenous organisations and support the development of the Link Up network
There is no phone number to contact the Healing Council — please contact using their website:

In Good Faith Foundation
Independent advocacy, casework, referral and support to aid recovery for survivors, their families and communities responding to religious institutional abuses
Phone: 03 9326 1190

MensLine Australia
National telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns
Phone: 1300 78 99 78

People with Disability Australia
The national telephone line to provide information and referrals to people with disabilities
Phone: 1800 422 015 / TTY: 1800 422 016

Sexual Assault Counselling Australia
National telephone counselling service for people who have experienced abuse. Face-to-face counselling is available in New South Wales
Phone: 1800 211 028

Advocacy, referrals and support services to people who have experienced religious/clergy abuse, with a focus on the Jewish community
Phone: 1300 893 335

Blue Knot Foundation
Counselling and support for survivors

Phone: 1300 657 380

Bravehearts Inc
Counselling and support for survivors, child protection advocacy

Phone: 1800 272 831

Care Leavers Australasia Network
Support and advocacy for Forgotten Australians

Phone: 1800 008 774

Child Migrants Trust
Social work services for Former Child Migrants, including counselling and support for family reunions

Phone: 1800 040 509

Child Wise
The Trauma-informed telephone and online counselling for childhood abuse. Training and organisational capacity building on child abuse prevention

Phone: 1800 991 099

Children and Young People with Disability Australia
The national peak body for children and young people with disability. Provides information and systemic representation

Phone: 1800 222 660 / 03 9417 1025

The Healing Foundation
Service to help build the capacity of Indigenous organisations and support the development of the Link Up network

There is no phone number to contact the Healing Council — please contact using their website:

In Good Faith Foundation
Independent advocacy, casework, referral and support to aid recovery for survivors, their families and communities responding to religious institutional abuses.

Phone: 03 9326 1190

MensLine Australia
National telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns

Phone: 1300 78 99 78

People with Disability Australia
The national telephone line to provide information and referrals to people with disabilities

Phone: 1800 422 015 / TTY: 1800 422 016

Sexual Assault Counselling Australia
National telephone counselling service for people who have experienced abuse. Face-to-face counselling is available in New South Wales.

Phone: 1800 211 028

Advocacy, referrals and support services to people who have experienced religious/clergy abuse, with a focus on the Jewish community

Phone: 1300 893 335

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